One of the country’s best mid-major teams is going to have an agonizing wait for Selection Sunday.
Middle Tennessee State’s tournament future is in major jeopardy after the Blue Raiders lost Thursday in its opening game of the Conference USA tournament, getting bested by Southern Miss, 71-68 in overtime.
Without C-USA’s automatic bid, Middle Tennessee State owns a 24-7 record and a shaky position heading into this weekend.
Wins against Vanderbilt, Mississippi and Murray State are helpful, but they represent the bulk of the Blue Raiders’ resume. On the other side of the ledger are two losses to Marshall and now a loss to a sub-200 team in the Golden Eagles. That’s just not a profile that’s going to have coach Kermit Davis sleeping easy the next three nights.
This also could spell trouble for high-major bubble teams. If the committee does ultimately judge the Blue Raiders as worth of a spot among the 68, that suddenly makes C-USA a two-bid league and vaporizes an at-large spot that was anticipated to be available.
Middle Tennessee State has spent the last three years establishing itself as the real deal with back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances and a first-round win over Minnesota last year before putting together another strong regular season this year. This loss to Doc Sadler’s Southern Miss squad, though, is a harsh reminder about life in the C-USA right now. What you’ve done in the past and what you’ve done over the last three months don’t matter much if you can’t run the table in the conference tournament.